Last month SponsorPitch conducted a survey of sponsorship sales professionals
in an effort to understand how sellers research brands before they consider them
prospects, and their thoughts on doing the task. We received 50 responses to
our initial survey and though the research was exploratory in nature it provided
some fascinating results. Here we provide our overall conclusions, as well as
analysis of each question posed on the survey and the responses they
Doing qualifying research to determine who and how to pitch sponsorship
opportunities is a significant portion of the sponsorship sales job, in some cases
50% of it. This is likely in large part due to the fact brands don’t share a lot of
information about what they do, there are no standard reference resources to
use, and none that do exist are specifically tailored to the needs of sponsorship
professionals in an age where real time data is critical. Perhaps not surprisingly,
few sponsorship pros are satisfied with the depth of information that is currently
available or the time it currently takes to find it. Sponsorship sales pros seem to
know intuitively that with the tools at their disposal today, they are missing many
opportunities, spending a lot of time chasing dead ends and worst of all, paying a
lot of money for information that is still updated on an annual or bi-annual basis.
While other industries have adopted more real-time research methods, it seems
that the pain and inefficiency of sponsor prospecting’s current toolset may have
finally created the call to action whereby it now can evolve.
Questions We Asked
1. What best describes the average amount of time you must spend researching a brand before
you feel you have enough information to know if it is a fit for your sponsorship opportunity, and
you can talk to the brand intelligently about how the sponsorship fits its business?
Analysis: It takes at least two hours to research a brand thoroughly enough to understand if it
should be considered a legitimate prospect. When you consider how many brands have to be
researched, that’s a whole lot of time to spend, considering how few legit prospects will come out
of all that research. Everyone understands the “more doors you knock on the more sales you’ll
make.” When it takes two hours plus to knock on a door however, it seems there is a need to find
ways to make fewer knocks or less time intensive ones.
2. What best describes the percentage of your job you must spend collecting the information you
need to determine if and how to approach a brand with a sponsorship opportunity? This is all the
work put in before a proposal is written or a phone call is made.
Analysis: It is not uncommon for sponsorship sales people to spend at least one quarter of their
job researching for prospects. This isn’t outrageous, but when considering how much time must
be spent on each brand, there simply is not a lot of time to do prospect research, given the other
responsibilities one might have (following up on prospects in the sales funnel, servicing existing
sponsors, internal meetings, other duties beyond sales, etc.) more efficiency is needed for sure.
3. Which best describes on average how many proposals you send or submit to would be
sponsors in a week?
Analysis: Most people send out no more than two or three proposals a week. This is kind of a
shockingly low number considering how many are needed to find a prospect that leads to a sale.
This shows the impact two hours to research a brand has in real terms. Long gone are the days
of “shot-gunning” cookie cutter proposals. These days it’s all about customized, informed
proposals, which take a great deal of time to prepare. Based on our preliminary findings, with
rough estimates, one sales person can realistically assess no more than about 200 brands in a
year. As part of a large sales organization with many reps, this may not be a big deal. Smaller
properties with less sales staff need much greater efficiency.
4. How much do you spend annually on sponsorship prospect research resources (sourcebooks,
conferences, memberships, subscriptions)?
Analysis: It seems folks with few resources spend little if anything on sourcebooks and contact
lists, thinking the Internet is free and any information one needs, can be found on it eventually.
Sale pros with more resources at their disposal (or more savvy ones in general) can’t afford to
spend so much time researching, so they purchase what they hope to be short cuts to the data
they need. Keep in mind this question only sheds some light on what people spend on dedicated
information resources. If one quarter of a sponsorship sales pro’s job is researching, assuming a
median income of about $50,000/year, the rough numbers work out the cost (in man hours) of
doing brand research to about a quarter of sales pro’s compensation, or $12,500/year per FTE.
5. Which of the following lead generation and brand intelligence sources do you use? (check all
Write-in responses: Hoovers, Networking Events, Newswire.ca, Marketing Magazine, Ad Age, personal
database, advertising database, trade journals, personal contacts and references, BrandWeek, AdWeek, ad
data express, IEG newsletter, personal connections, word of mouth, sponsorship websites
(sponsorpitch.com), referrals, The World Sponsorship Monitor, networking events, Redbooks,
addataexpress, marketing magazines, Advertising Database, other sponsors, radio, television, regional
Analysis: Clearly the world has changed. Where once annually published sourcebooks and CD-
ROMs dominated the market of information resources serving the sponsorship sales force, like
pretty much everything involving sharing information, the Internet now dominates. What is
fascinating is we received over 15 different answers to this question when factoring in the “other”
sources respondents gave. This paints a picture of staggeringly fragmented and disorganized
information and the need for standardizing how this data is captured and collected. The myriad
answers to this question provide great insight into why researching a brand takes so painfully
6. When researching a brand, what information do you spend the most time trying to learn?
Other: Business challenges, decision-makers and target audience equally.
Analysis: The answers here were both expected and surprising at the same time. On the one
hand it seems obvious that figuring out who and how to contact people in companies (especially
large ones) would take a lot of time. What is surprising is that not even 50% of respondents said
finding decision makers takes the most time. It seems most people are spending the most time
trying to figure out what the business is, what it does, and how a given sponsorship might fit in.
This provides great evidence that contrary to what brand side people might think, most
sponsorship sales pros don’t want to pester brands with their own sales pitches. The reality is
they want to know what they are all about and how they operate in an effort to present valuable
sponsorship activation platforms.
7. Would you share data you collect about brands with sponsorship sales peers if doing so gave
you immediate access to more accurate data than you can collect on your own?
• Yes, but not with direct competitors
• Yes, but with caveats (both ways)
• Absolutely. Wholesaling the information acquisition process makes perfect sense
• Maybe, as long as we were geographically far enough apart not to be competitors
Analysis: No data from this survey demonstrated how frustrating the brand research and
prospecting function is for sponsorship sales people than the answers given to this question.
Over half of respondents said they would share brand intelligence with peers if doing so meant
they could get more information faster, without even knowing exactly what it meant, and over
90% said they would at least consider it. Less than 10% said they wouldn’t share data with
peers. There were some competitive concerns raised, but not to the degree we expected. It
seems evident the market is ready for a dramatically new paradigm to define the future of how
brands are researched and qualified for sponsorship sales opportunities.
8. What best describes your experience with online sponsorship proposal submission systems?
• Best time of year to submit proposals
• Listing of dollar amounts and in kind sponsorships
• There is no bad information about a prospect
Analysis: When you look at the answers to this question, combined with the answers and
conclusions from #6, it makes a great deal of sense. We don’t expect brands to be forthcoming
about all the data sponsorship sales people want to know about their brands, but they should. If
they did proactively make available the information sales pros spend so much time trying to find
and piece together, they might be surprised at how many better proposals they would get. Less
time researching would mean (at least in theory) better activation ideas as a result of
understanding the brand’s business better, and probably, ironically enough, fewer proposals for
brands. Cutting off dialogue and forcing properties to read a brand’s mind does nothing to
improve the sponsorship platforms available and fosters the conditions for more misguided
9. Please check all the kinds of information you would like to be able to access faster and more
often when researching brands.
Analysis: What a perfect way to sum it all up! No matter the information, the sponsorship sales
force wants to be able to get the information it needs to do its job much faster than it can with any
and all resources and tools available today. SponsorPitch has heard this message loud and clear
and is hard at work developing a better solution that will help you to capture, share and ultimately
act on the vast amount of brand intelligence that today goes unaccounted for.
It seems a vast majority of sponsorship professionals are willing to collaborate
with each other to share the bits of brand information respectively at their
disposal in order to benefit from the broader collective of more timely, relevant
and cost-efficient leads supplied by their industry peers. Sponsor prospecting
afterall is not a zero sum game; when one property wins another one doesn’t
necessary lose. Quite to the contrary, one property’s trash is very likely another’s
To learn how you can join a network of sponsorship pros already collaborating to
create a better brand intelligence resource, please review this white paper on the
topic and submit your email.